Can You Flat Tow a Tesla?


Can You Flat Tow a Tesla?

If you’re a Tesla owner and your planning an RV trip in your near future, then you’re probably wondering what the easiest way to get your Tesla from your home to your vacation spot. Flat towing a Tesla can be a cause of concern for many vehicle owners. Most cars can be flat towed behind an RV with a few pieces of equipment, but what about Teslas?

Can you flat tow a Tesla? You cannot flat tow a Tesla. Tesla states that all of their vehicles must be towed on a flatbed truck. Any other tow method may very well damage your vehicle and even void your warranty. 

We researched this topic a bit further and determined the best and worst ways to tow your Tesla vehicle. 

Risks of Flat Towing a Tesla Vehicle 

Tesla heavily advises against towing your vehicle with any number of wheels on the ground. They have yet to release any official statement as to why this is, but many users have speculated that it is due to heat-related issues. For example, a common consumer may think, “I’ll just put the car in neutral and tow it behind me.”

The flaw in this logic is that when the car is turned off and in the neutral position, the engine’s cooling system is not running. Without this cooling system, many different vital components can overheat – the first of which would likely be your bearings and gears. 

This is also extremely detrimental to the transmission of your car. In fact, many gasoline engines cannot be flat towed, as their transmissions may overheat as well. When your vehicle is turned on and running, your cooling system has lines running all throughout your car. These lines vary from vehicle to vehicle though, but commonly follow the same path. 

Coolant will flow all throughout the engine of your car, through electrical motors, through front and rear differential assemblies, through the transmission, and even through the heating and cooling system of your vehicle. Without having the pump running and flushing new coolant to these parts, friction will cause them to overheat quite rapidly. 

Once the heat builds, these parts will begin to lose their lubricity, break down, and eventually fail. Electric cars are so unbelievably precise in their functionality that even flat towing a vehicle for a few miles can cause very serious damage. 

The Proper Way to Tow a Tesla

In the manual for most Tesla vehicles, Tesla’s recommended towing procedures are very well spelled out. Tesla exclusively recommends the use of a flatbed truck tow your vehicle

  1. To do so, you first need to disable any self-leveling features that your vehicle may have. These include the optional air suspension features that come on many premium Tesla models. 
  • To do this, navigate through your Control menus and set your ride-height at the highest level possible, then select “Jack.” This cancels out your active-suspension technology and allows the vehicle to be moved freely without risk of damaging suspension components. 
  • From here, you need to place your Tesla in “tow mode.” Nearly all Tesla models will automatically shift the car into park after the driver has exited the vehicle. This can be an issue for many obvious reasons, so you’ll need to bypass this feature. 
  • To do so, navigate to your Controls menu once more, choose your E-Brake and Power Off options, and select “Tow Mode.” This allows your vehicle to remain in neutral, even after you have exited the vehicle. 
  • However, do not activate “tow mode” until your vehicle is hooked up to a tow truck’s wench. Your car may roll away and harm you, harm others, or cause major property damage. 

Depending on which model of Tesla you own, several other precautions may need to be taken before placing your car on a tow truck. Be sure to consult your owner’s manual for all of the proper preparations for your specific car

Towing a Tesla to Recharge Its Battery

There have been several customers and online news articles that have mentioned the possibility of towing a Tesla in order to recharge its battery. This could be especially helpful during long trips if you have to run out of charge on the side of the road, and have no idea where the nearest charging station may be. 

In practice, this does work quite well. However, there are some serious issues with doing so. Many users have reported that, in order to tow a Tesla this way, you follow the steps above to place the vehicle in tow mode. After this, you hook it up behind another vehicle and tow your Tesla with all four wheels on the ground. 

It has been reported that your car will charge at a 1:10 ratio. Basically, for every 1 mile that your tow vehicle drives, your Tesla will regenerate about 10 miles of battery life. This could be incredibly cost saving to some users, as paying a tow vehicle to pull you 10 or 20 miles is certainly a lot cheaper than paying for your car to be hauled all the way to mechanic or tow lot. 

We’ve already discussed the many concerns to be had about towing your vehicle with it off. Heat builds up and will completely destroy vital components. However, some online users have suggested to leave the car in the ‘on’ position when towing it in this way. 

Online blog, Jalopnik, reached out to Tesla about this, hoping to find out if this is safe or not. Tesla responded, saying that the idea was certainly creative, but not feasible. This is because, in order to tow a Tesla, you’ll often times need a gasoline car to pull all the extra weight. This completely negates the fact that the Tesla’s recharging system was designed to be all-electric. 

Though, Tesla failed to address if this is safe for the vehicle in the long term. For travelers who drive RVs and need to recharge their Tesla without access to a regular charging system, this method makes a bit of sense. However, without a proper response from Tesla regarding the safety of this, we certainly couldn’t recommend it. 

This is very much a ‘your mileage may vary’ situation – pun intended. 

Having a Tesla Towed Without Owners Consent

There have been several questions about having a Tesla towed without the owner’s consent. These questions are often in regards to towing a Tesla that has been illegally parked in some form or another. These questions are quite valid because if a Tesla needs to placed in “tow mode” in order to be towed without damage, how can law enforcement safety tow a vehicle to an impound lot?

This question is a bit tricky to answer because to put it quite simple, “you can’t” – or at the very least, you shouldn’t. It is certainly possible to tow a Tesla without placing it in tow mode, but this would involve the car being in ‘park’ position. 

You would need to hook the vehicle up to a tow truck’s wench, and without placing the car in neutral first, this will put a lot of stress on the transmission and possibly the electric motor components of the vehicle. The wheels would essentially be scraping the ground all the way onto the tow truck.

This is a horrible situation for obvious reasons, and because of this, you need to be extra cautious with parking. This can be said about most vehicles, but Tesla owners specifically need to remain vigilant when parking in uncertain conditions. 

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Greg

Hi, I'm Greg. My daily driver is a Tesla Model 3 Performance. I've learned a ton about Teslas from hands-on experience and this is the site where I share everything I've learned.

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